With the Mississippi House of Representatives on the verge of passing a bill that would legalize discrimination by commercial businesses throughout the state, more than 350 clergy leaders from across the country released a statement denouncing the bill and challenging their fellow Christians who support it to examine their conscience.
The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” which would allow businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, is closely modeled on the Arizona bill that made national news last month when it was vetoed by Republican Governor Jan Brewer under a storm of controversy.
The signers represent hundreds of congregations and include Mississippi clergy leaders along with some of the most high-profile national evangelical and mainline protestant leaders in the country, including:
Bruce Case, Senior Pastor of Parkway Hills United Methodist Church in Madison, MS; Rev. Austin Hoyle, Youth Minister and Associate Pastor of Parkway Hills United Methodist Church in Madison MS; Rev. Michael McLaughlin, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Cleveland, MS; Rev. Richard Cizik, President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good; Rev. Dr. James C. Perkins, President-elect of the Progressive National Baptist Convention; Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL; Noel Castellanos, CEO Christian Community Development Association; Mr. James Winkler, President of the National Council of Churches; Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and more.
The statement read, in part:
“These misguided efforts eerily echo Jim Crow laws that robbed African Americans of their basic human dignity. Businesses once barred not only blacks, but Jews and Asians from buying homes in certain neighborhoods or eating in restaurants even after Supreme Court rulings overturned segregation laws.”
Signers of the statement applauded those lawmakers who are rejecting the discriminatory legislation that would return to Mississippi to an era when religious claims and government policy were used to further Jim Crow laws.
Religious leaders’ stances on this issue will also shape the future of the church. A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that 55 percent of white evangelical Protestant Milliennials believe religious groups are alienating young adults by being too judgmental about gay and lesbian issues.
The full list of signers and the full text of the statement are below and can be found here. Signers’ affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.
As evangelicals, mainline Protestants and Catholics we are alarmed by the pending Mississippi bill that would allow virtually anyone, including businesses, to discriminate against customers in the name of religious liberty. We call on Mississippi and all states to abandon legislation that threatens democracy, civil rights and religious freedom itself.
These misguided efforts eerily echo Jim Crow laws that robbed African Americans of their basic human dignity. Businesses once barred not only blacks, but also Jews and Asians from buying homes in certain neighborhoods or eating in restaurants even after Supreme Court rulings overturned segregation laws.
We must not allow faith to be used in the service of discrimination.
When we seek to codify legislation that discriminates against any class of people—no matter our diverse theological beliefs about marriage—we tarnish the treasure of religious freedom and the highest ideals of our democracy. Most of all, we are complicit in violating the Golden Rule that unites us as Christians—to love God and our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Pastor Bruce Case
Parkway Hills UMC
Rev. Austin Hoyle
Parkway Hills UMC
Youth Minister and Associate Pastor
Rev. Michael McLaughlin
First Presbyterian Church
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